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Indians Protest Over Gang Rape Of A Woman Of Marginalized Caste

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Next, to India for a story that, we should warn you, contains descriptions of violence. Protests erupted across India today over the alleged gang rape and murder of a woman from the country's most marginalized caste, the Dalit community. Four men from a dominant caste are under arrest. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting in non-English language).

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in non-English language).

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: "Down with caste discrimination, down with rape," protesters chant in the Indian capital. The victim in this rape case was from the Dalit community, the most oppressed group in India's caste system. She was attacked in a field allegedly by dominant caste men from her same village near New Delhi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE CHIEF: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: The local police chief says the victim named her attackers - four of them - before she died in a hospital last night. The men are under arrest. Most rape in India is believed to be within families and to go unreported. But every few months, there is a gang rape seemingly more horrific than the last one. Police caution against hysteria, but lurid details dominate headlines.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And in tragic news coming in, a 19-year-old Dalit girl gang raped, tortured...

FRAYER: And the streets, again, are filling with protesters.

KALPANA SHARMA: Each time something happens, people demand, hang the rapists; you know, have a stronger law, et cetera. They forget that the system is not working.

FRAYER: Author and activist Kalpana Sharma says the system especially fails oppressed-caste women. What's most alarming about this case, she says, is that rape appears to have been used as a weapon against a whole community.

SHARMA: But they will rape the women to tell this family or this community where it stands. So the girl is picked on by these upper castes to teach the lower castes a lesson. And she is mutilated to the point where she - there's no chance of her survival, and she dies.

FRAYER: Police are still investigating. Meanwhile, TV crews have flooded the family's home...

(CROSSTALK)

FRAYER: ...Where grieving relatives threw themselves on the hood of an ambulance. The victim's body was cremated last night without the family's permission, her brother told local TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

FRAYER: "We just want our honor restored," he says. "We need protection, and we need justice."

Lauren Frayer, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF JORIS VOORN SONG, "ANTIGONE (YOTTO EXTENDED MIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.